Process mapping and flow charts are words used interchangeably and refer to creating a diagram that illustrates a business process. The only difference between these words is that process mapping refers to the actual process of creating a diagram; the diagram itself is called a flow chart.
The activity of process mapping is conducted to understand how the steps in a business process work together. This helps companies understand areas of inefficiencies and it also provides visual illustrations to help businesses increase performance and profitability. Any type of organization can often benefit from the use of process mapping.
Process mapping requires a company to take a particular process used in the operations of the business and map it out. Each step of the process is placed in a rectangular box. Arrows are used to show the order of the steps and ovals represent the starting or ending point of the process. When this is placed on paper, it creates a flow chart. There are several other symbols used in flow charts as well.
Process mapping is designed to achieve several objectives. Company owners and employees are able to view the processes of a company to better understand the steps involved and how each step works. After diagramming a flow chart, the management studies the steps and looks for problems. There are often steps in a process that are impractical or do not offer any significant benefit. Management changes or eliminates these steps to free itself from inefficient activities. There might be other steps that need improvements. The visual diagram of a flow chart offers an easy way for companies to locate these areas and improve them.
During process mapping, businesses are able to specify certain roles of employees. The flow chart helps companies accomplish this task. Management views the flow chart, and from it, determines the roles of each employee in the business. A flow chart may also help companies eliminate job positions that are not productive. The company may also see areas where extra employees are needed to further improve the efficiency and productivity of the process.